Report: ESPN’s Simmons, Stan Van Gundy to join ESPN studio show

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UPDATE 12:45 am: Sports By Brooks, which broke the story, has this update:

SbB has learned Chris Broussard & Jon Barry won’t returm to ESPN’s NBA studio. Added to show: @sportsguy33 & Stan Van Gundy

Which means the lineup would be Mike Wilbon and Magic Johnson as holdovers with ESPN’s Sports Guy Bill Simmons and Stan Van Gundy. That has potential (frankly, I would have dropped Magic, too, he’s not good in this role). It should be better than the old pregame/halftime studio show, but that’s not much of a bar to clear.

TNT is still the model to beat.

8:40 am: I don’t know if this is really true, but I hope that it is.

There have been rumors that ESPN has been looking to shake up its rather staid pregame/halftime NBA studio show. Now we get this tweet from Sports By Brooks:

SbB has learned @sportsguy33 & Stan Van Gundy will host retooled ESPN NBA studio show in LA this season

For the record, @sportsguy33 is the twitter handle of ESPN “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons. He is their most popular Internet writer, the guy behind Grantland and the suits at ESPN have looked for a way to use him more on television.

Word of caution, take this rumor with a grain of salt. Or, maybe a whole box of Kosher salt. It’s interesting and it’s out there — and certainly Sports By Brooks does have contacts — but we’re not sure how real this is yet.

If true, I don’t know how good that pairing would be, but it has potential. The current ESPN studio show — with Magic Johnson, Jon Barry, Chris Broussard and Mike Wilbon — is dull. It lacks chemistry.

The best studio show remains TNT’s Inside the NBA. Even with Shaquille O’Neal as an anchor on it. The combination of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson is fantastic — they are both funny and can be insightful. Chris Webber fits in well as a fourth on that show.

It’s night and day when you compare ABC’s studio show to TNT’s. Simmons and Van Gundy (the recently released Magic coach and brother of ESPN color analyst Jeff Van Gundy) have potential though to be funny — both have great senses of humor — and to have good basketball talk as well.

I’d tune in and give it a chance at least.

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.

Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Gregg Popovich to miss Spurs-Warriors Game 5

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.

Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.

This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.